This past week has been one of conflicting emotions, regarding the act of terrorism which occurred in Paris, and the acceptance of Syrian refugees in the United States. I have spent the better part of this week ruminating on what I feel we should do, as Americans, to protect ourselves from a horrendous act occurring on our soil again – because we already had acts committed against us on 11 September 2001.
I realized the more I reflected on this situation, the more I needed to put political affiliation aside. One side of the political aisle is calling for embracing of refugees, completely, adding as an after-thought, “well, they need to be vetted.” The other side of the political aisle is saying, “absolutely nobody should be admitted. Close the borders entirely.” I hate extremes, and there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. I also chuckle at the governors saying they won’t accept refugees in their states because, the last time I checked, we have freedom of movement between states, without checks at state borders – so, unless we are putting an ankle bracelet or some sort of monitor on refugees, how are they going to track, and stop, refugees from going from a friendly state (i.e. Washington State) to an unfriendly state (i.e. Idaho)? Statements from these governors just continue to feed the hysteria, in my opinion.
So, I set my political beliefs to the side, and focused on what I hope is my true guiding compass in my life – my faith. WWJD? My moment of clarity on this issue came to me after I spoke with a priest about a completely different topic on Wednesday. That day, he reminded me that I am called to act as a witness to my faith, through the actions I display, not just the words I speak. Live as a Christian, don’t just call myself one.
This applies at home – if I am cursing, that is not living out my Christianity; however, tempering my tongue is living out my Christianity. If I am being a Christian, my children will learn to imitate and internalize the way in which to live, regardless of whether or not they practice the Catholic faith when they are of age to make that determination. The saying, “actions speak louder than words” is a true one.
I should strive to live out the Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5:3-12:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted;
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth;
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled;
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy;
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God;
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God;
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;
Blessed are you when people revile you and rebuke you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Keeping the Beatitudes in mind, and looking to my heart and conscience, I feel we are being called to continue welcoming refugees into our country. We have been gifted a beautiful, free country – one that people die for, routinely, just trying to make it to our shores. There is no way to fully vet the refugees who are fleeing from torment and persecution. However, regardless of religious affiliation, these people are people first, and are in need of a place to call home, whether it be temporary or permanent.
Some other women I have heard from lately have reminded us – the Holy Family (that would be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph) were once refugees, fleeing Herod. And, I also wonder – how would I want someone to act if, God forbid, I had to flee my homeland?
Finally, “acting Christian” in our lives isn’t just a small-scale, local “thing you do.” To be Christian means to extend your good will to all, regardless of the price you might ultimately pay.
This means acting not just locally, although it is good to give aid and assistance to local charities and local communities to do good works. It also means acting globally, meaning you extend your charity to a macro-economic level – and, by accepting refugees, we are living out our Christian faith on a global scale.
There are many people across the country asking for our government to “take action,” and to, “do something,” for the people in Syria. This is our government’s current response to those demands – to keep the doors to freedom, safety, and security open to those fleeing their homeland.
Do I want to put my family or friends at risk? No. However, I place my trust in God, and know that His will shall be done. Do I worry about an influx of refugees, some of whom may wish to do America harm? Of course I do. That said, how do we determine who should come and who should be left behind? Even the response, “let’s only allow women, children, and the elderly in,” rankles me because I know age and/or gender doesn’t guarantee innocence and good feelings toward Americans.
But, something must be done. For every 1 possible ill-wishing person, I would dare say there are hundreds of desperate souls searching for peace, love, security, and freedom of religion. The “bad guys,” are going to find a way in, regardless of whether or not we are allowing the innocent refugees in, of that I am certain. If we can mitigate their actions by creating allies with those we do allow in, perhaps the “scare” and uncertainty of it in the short term will be worth it all in the long run.
As a military spouse, I am the last person in the world who would advocate for sending Soldier Boy and his counterparts to engage in military strategy “willy nilly.” I have seen, and experienced, firsthand all the struggles as my husband and his combat-experienced brothers- and sisters-in-arms deploy routinely, missing their families, their friends, milestones, anniversaries, and other important days. And I have seen the heartache when some of them are carried home under the flag. I am going to refrain from my thoughts on military intervention until I further assess the situation – the last thing I want is a knee-jerk reaction from any government, to automatically send more of their troops’ battle-weary boots on the ground, without any strategically clear course of action. However, I don’t disregard that this may be a necessity to fully combat the evil that is rearing its ugly head in this world.
Growing up, I studied the lives of martyrs – those persecuted and killed for their faithfulness to God. While I am scared to death my faith would flounder if I were facing death for my devotion to God, I would hope I would continue to live the example of Christianity to the end of my life, no matter how that end occurs. I would hope I would be able to see God’s face and hand in any situation that would test my faith.
Believing that the Devil is real, and is trying very hard to get souls on “his” side, I see how this situation is allowing him to gain strength. He gets those souls by infecting people with hate and fear.
I pray that we, as Americans, do not become so divided by this issue that it unravels the core tenet that founded this country – Freedom. And, that we continue to pursue actively living our Christian faith, extending a welcoming hand, although not naively, to those who are in need.